Enterprising school management leads to more effective schools

In recent years it has become increasingly more obvious that school management teams exert relatively little influence on school effectiveness, certainly compared to the influence of pupils’ background. Moreover, detecting the influence of school management teams is far from easy. Nevertheless, Ten Bruggencate has now established a small but significant effect of school management teams on school effectiveness.

Over the past few decades the focus of research into school management has shifted. In the 1980s a ‘narrow’ view of school management prevailed in which the school director was viewed as an educational leader and supervisor of teachers. Yet later, broader models came to the fore in which the involvement and capacities of teachers as well as the division of leadership tasks became the focus.

Development-focussed schools perform better

Although little is still known about the influence of school management teams on pupil performance, many factors that might influence this have already been found, such as teachers’ motivation and the working climate for pupils. Ten Bruggencate used a general organisation model, the so-called competing values model, to accurately characterise both the school management and the school organisation. The researcher discovered that an enterprising school management team can stimulate a development-focussed school culture by ensuring clear targets and providing the space needed for individual choices. In such a development-focussed school culture the emphasis is on cooperation, professionalisation and innovation. A greater focus on development, results in a better working climate in the classrooms, which in turn leads to better school effectiveness. This mainly concerns an increase in the percentage of pupils that move on to the senior high school without having to repeat one or more years. Interestingly, management teams of schools with poor final exam results are at the forefront of setting targets, making changes and innovation. Management teams of schools with stable high performances place less emphasis on these aspects. These results possibly reflect the effect of a government policy, which is focussed on a high degree of autonomy for schools that is linked to accountability.

More than one hundred schools analysed

To assess the effect of school management teams on school effectiveness, data were collected from more than 100 high schools in the Netherlands. A total of 103 school management team members, 998 teachers and 4336 pupils in year 5 of schools for senior general secondary education participated in the study. The school effectiveness was measured on the basis of the average results in the national written examinations and the average progress in the senior high school. Gerdy ten Bruggencate carried out her research within the project ‘Educational management and school effectiveness’. NWO’s Programme Council for Educational Research funded her work.

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